Thursday, 27 October 2016

Study Visit - William Kentridge at the Whitechapel Gallery

This was an OCA organised visit which, luckily, was on a Sunday when I wasn't working. William Kentridge has appeared in the course at various times and it was great to see his work in real life rather than on a screen or in a book.

The show consisted of drawings, books, tapestries, installations and animations and was mesmerising, I missed the get together discussion at the end because I was so engrossed in the films. The first room was the piece that I found most interesting. A mixture of a mechanical bellows that silently beat out time throughout the projection and a series of films which played out around the walls. I particularly liked the procession shadow figures which went from carnival mode to refugees and the soft feint lines used to define the different figures when they overlapped.. Thought provoking and topical. Kentridge packed a lot in to this piece and it would have been good to watch it through more than once as I'm sure that there were many details that I missed.  It is said that his works political and I felt a tension in the pieces. A sense of unquiet and brooding storm. I suspect that there is a level of understanding of his works that can only be reached with a familiarity with politics, particularly South African politics, but without that knowledge it is possible to feel his frustration with an unequal regime and that is not confined to South Africa.
Sketchbook drawings from the day

He is clearly fascinated with how things appear when film is played backwards, maybe wishing to undo past actions or events. He also uses very simple techniques to get his message across, film in the style of flip books and animations made by erasing and redrawing. His drawings are bold, gestural, and lively. There was lots to think about in the way of techniques to convey a message.

The erased charcoal animations were the most interesting technique and the project from the last section "An emotional response" wasn't very good. Referencing Kentridges technique I made a very short and rather poor quality video on my phone.
The technique needs a lot of work to take it further but has potential....

Monday, 3 October 2016

Part 4 - Project 2: Interacting with the environment

I walk in these woods two or three times a week with my dog. It was a rainy day mid morning so that most of the dog walkers had been and gone which gave me a bit of space to think.
To get in the right frame of mind I started by plaiting the ivy. You can't really see any difference and the wind unplaited it while I continued my walk.
There was a angled branch which made a good support for a sort of cairn of sticks, the sort of thing children and survivalists make on a large scale to shelter from the elements. Pleasingly it was still there when I walked the same woods a few days later.
I tried a few tentative interventions, lining up sticks and tying fallen leaves to a branch which were uninspiring and difficult to photograph. Then I found this fallen branch which had a partial saw cut which supported a few twigs
The twigs should either all be the same length or evenly gradated to get bigger or smaller or form a wave like the fence from the previous exercise.
The same tree trunk had a hollow and there were some berries on the floor close by.

This is a bit better. It would be nice to gather a larger number of berries and fill a bigger hollow in another tree or better still a pothole in the road...
Some larger berries fitted into the hollows of another tree stump with some twigs and a leaf
It's not a sophisticated response but something that could be developed further. I can see faces in so many abstract patterns. Maybe this could be used to attract children to the natural world?
There is a lot of fungi in the woods at the moment and some of it has holes in it so I added a bunch of fallen leaves.
Someone had dumped some rubble which included some tiles and a large block so I tiled the block.
It's rather unimpressive. It could be a comment on fly tipping or represent human interaction with the natural world but I'm not convinced.

I've been experimenting with making tracks by walking on a dew laden field. This is difficult to photograph but in this mornings bright sunlight when the dew had a touch of frost I did this.

Reflection: Make notes in your log about how you felt about making changes to the ‘real world’. What were the frustrations, what were the successes? How do you think the way the viewer experiences this kind of art differs from looking at drawings framed under glass? 

I found this difficult to do.  I don't think that I have enough conviction in what I'm doing to have the courage to be caught in the act by random passers by. This is an ordinary suburban town where art is something other people do somewhere else. I'm likely to be arrested for loitering and suspected of intention to damage or steal something. It's also much harder than you would expect to come up with a simple, visually pleasing idea using just what you find around you. Ideas are coming slowly and I need to work through them to see if I can do something more effective.

Photography is a frustration. I draw because I can see and focus on what I wanted edit out what I don't like, what is not part of my preferred view. With photographs, although it is possible to manipulate them, the initial photograph has to show the bare bones of the subject which requires a different viewpoint, literally in that I need a ladder or a drone, and mentally in that I need to look at the world in a different way.

The successes are potentials at the moment, by opening my eyes to see the possibilities around me.

I think that this sort of art is really important as a way to draw people in. Galleries can be seen as impenetrable and elitist but people who would not go into a gallery are exposed to art if they find it in the world around them. There is a sense of achievement or privilege in finding an unexpected piece of art as you go about your daily business. Work without a frame or a protective cover feels more part of the real world, you can touch it, it may be temporary, you could destroy it and nobody would stop you. Does that make the observer feel more protective of the work? More powerful? More involved?

Do you think that viewers will necessarily know that what you’ve done is art? 
No. Children playing maybe, random accident in the case of the berries and the fungi. To be honest I don't think that most people would notice anything. Partly because the brief said "make five different small drawn interactions in the environment" and they were small... and partly because people in general aren't very observant and will just amble past without noticing even quite big things ( I once met a doorman in a dock who hadn't noticed a 68ft boat moored outside....)

Tutor feedback
Does my site specific work comment on the following , and if so how?

  1. a) the landscape
  2. b)  scale
  3. c)  colour
  4. d)  form

  5. e)  understanding of place 
I don't think that I have successfully commented on any of the above with the possible exception of d) form. The works, with the exception of the footprints in the dew, are very small and relate more to my feelings of insecurity at being asked to work in public. They are tentative explorations of the concept of environmental interventions. Successful works will take into account at least one of the 5 points and probably more. To do this requires more planning, more confidence and a lot more consideration as to what I am trying to achieve by making them.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Study visits - Touch. Maggi Hambling at the British Museum

I've had a few days off this week so I've taken myself on some study visits. Today I went to the British Museum to see Maggi Hambling's drawings in the exhibition Touch. There are a few images here to give you a flavour of the exhibition. I confess that I knew already that I love Hambling's work so I'm predisposed to be positive.

I think that her drawings of people are more successful than her sea drawings but I guess the sea drawings are preparatory works for her paintings which are brilliant but for me the drawings don't work as pieces in their own right.

She makes many lines and marks to form a drawing as she feels her way around the shape of her subject but somehow she also manages to have an economical use of line to actually define the image. It appears that she works very fast which makes her drawings lively and energetic. Her drawings from memory are impressive and included a bull fight and her former tutor. She must have a fantastic visual memory.

I copied a few drawings in my sketch book to get the feel of them. I was particularly interested in Tory looking down which has many light lines across her face. In my hands this would make her look aged and tired but Hambling has drawn a soft feminine portrait. I can't find an online reference and my copy really doesn't do the drawing justice, go see for yourself if you are in London.